Bust the rust in wheat this season

Author: John Sheppard | Date: 02 Jul 2015

Image of John Sheppard, GRDC northern panel member.

By John Sheppard, GRDC northern panellist

In a bid to prevent costly losses from rust this season, wheat growers across Queensland and New South Wales are encouraged to adopt a `monitor and manage’ approach across paddocks and varieties.

Three wheat rust diseases are prevalent in Australia – stripe, stem and leaf rust – and all are highly infective diseases that can spread widely and quickly throughout a region.

While stem rust has the potential to inflict large-scale crop losses in the northern region if conditions are favourable, epidemics have largely been kept in check through the selection of varieties with adequate rust resistance.

In recent years stripe rust has prompted more cause for concern in the northern wheat growing regions given the development of new pathotypes of the stripe rust fungus.

Variety resistance is ultimately the best option for managing stripe rust in the long term. However, in the short to medium term growers planting moderately susceptible varieties are reliant on the use of fungicides either at sowing (in-furrow on fertiliser or seed treatments) or in-crop (application of foliar fungicides), or a combination of both options.

Fungicide intervention may also be necessary in other situations due to new stripe rust fungus pathotypes which reduce the resistance of selected commercial varieties. This further reinforces the need to select varieties on the most up-to-date information and monitor crops carefully during the season.

Rust remains a priority investment for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) which for more than 10 years has funded landmark rust research and development projects such as the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program (ACRCP).

Headed up by Professor Robert Park, the ACRCP program has provided the industry with vision and leadership when it comes to assisting Australian cereal breeders incorporate genetic resistance to rust diseases into varieties to achieve effective long-term disease management.

It’s extremely difficult to manage rust diseases reactively and therefore it is critical that our industry remains ahead of the game, not just in R&D but also in implementing best practice management recommendations in terms of variety selection and infection control measures.

At the end of the day growers’ best defence in combatting rust and preserving grain yield and quality is to remain vigilant in monitoring crops for any sign of infection.

A variety of information on the identification of wheat rusts and management strategies can be found on the GRDC-supported Rust Bust website and Rust Bust can also be followed on Twitter at @the_rustbust.

We can’t predict the likelihood or potential severity of outbreaks this year – that’s largely dependent on Mother Nature - but we can prepare for prevention. Good preparation might just mean the difference between a good winter and a great one.


Caption: GRDC northern panel member John Sheppard.

Contact Details

John Sheppard, GRDC Northern Panel, Toowoomba
0418 746 628

Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827

GRDC Project Code US00067

Region North